Once again I must emphasise the way in which a guess, wide of the truth, is wrenched into an application to something entirely irrelevant. The first medium says that before Raymond went away his family had a photograph which showed him in a group of other men; _because this is not true_, it is twisted into a reference to a photograph taken in France and not yet received. The revelations of this medium must be cut out of the story, and the whole incident is reduced to Sir Oliver Lodge being told in an ordinary letter that a group photograph is on its way to him; then he tells another medium about a group photograph, and in answer to leading questions she makes the halting guesses reproduced above.
This is the famous photograph story, stripped of exaggeration and garbling. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would lead us to believe that the medium told Sir Oliver about the existence of the photograph, but the true account shows that, so far from this being the case, _Sir Oliver told the medium_.
It is a commonplace of spiritualism that a medium may be guilty of trickery at one time and genuinely gifted at another. We may freely admit that mediums are peculiar people, but when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes on a subject that needs careful observation and description and gives this distorted account of the photograph story, he can expect little credence when he writes in the same book equally convincing stories of the supernatural and puts them before the public as a contribution to religious thought. He gives a list of eminent men who vouch for the genuineness of supernatural phenomena, and says that the days are past when their opinions can be dismissed with the empty ‘All rot’ or ‘Nauseating drivel’ formula. I agree, and regard their opinions as interesting objects of psychological study. A little research could produce a longer list of men, equally eminent in their day, who believed in witchcraft and were willing to execute people in accordance with that belief. The belief may yet return with all its horrors if _The New Revelation_ is taken seriously. On page 168 we read concerning the Cheriton poltergeist:–
‘It is very probable that Mr. Rolfe is, unknown to himself, a physical medium, and that when he was in the confined space of the cellar he turned it into a cabinet in which his magnetic powers could accumulate and be available for use.’ (It is hard to believe that he who speaks like this about ‘magnetic powers’ once had at least an elementary knowledge of physics.) On page 170 we read, concerning another poltergeist, that ‘… a clergyman, with some knowledge of occult matters, has succeeded by sympathetic reasoning and prayer in obtaining a promise from the entity that it will plague the household no more.’
[Footnote 19: A poltergeist is a spirit that throws things about; its appearance is generally associated with the presence of some young person, whose tricks may be detected to the discredit of the ghostly cause. If trickery is not detected the poltergeist is the manifestation of an evil spirit.]
Poor Mr. Rolfe has had a narrow escape of being mixed up with an ‘entity’ who, or which, might have led him to the stake in a thorough-going spiritualist age.
This relation between spiritualism and witchcraft is not a fantasy of my unconscious; listen to this from another believer:–
‘The dangers of the spiritual world are greater because, bad as a man living on our plane may be, he cannot compare in that respect with a thoroughly wicked denizen of the fourth-dimensional space, whose power is all the greater because his very existence is almost universally denied. What little good was ever in him has been blotted out in the course, perhaps, of centuries; his cunning passes earthly comprehension; his experience of the ways and foibles of humanity is profound; his malignity is dreadful. To be fully under the influence of such an entity as this is to be at his mercy, and, as no such word exists in his vocabulary, the end is a foregone conclusion, unless another force of a contrary character and at least as powerful is directed against him.'
[Footnote 20: _Problems of the Borderland_, p. 49, by J. Herbert Slater. Wm. Rider & Sons, 1915.]
It is indeed fortunate that the existence of these entities is almost universally denied. Hangings and burnings would be soon in fashion again if any large proportion of us were influenced by such a horrible complex.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has given an account to the papers (see _Daily Telegraph_, February 18th, 1919) of a séance in Wales. Hymns were sung to produce a suitable emotional state, and ‘the lights were turned down in order to obtain the proper conditions, because ether transmits light, and is also the source of all psychic phenomena.’ Then, the medium being tied down, a tambourine rattled, and a coat and furniture flew about. The bearing of this upon life in the hereafter, which Sir Arthur discusses in connection with the performance, is not clear, but the effects are identical with those produced by the Davenport Brothers, who were exposed in 1868.
[Footnote 21: See _The Question_, p. 103.]